Estonian Cranberry and Apple Soup

Welcome back, food lovers! After taking a few weeks hiatus (I was exhausted after a week of three funerals in a row, and was just really lazy in getting around to posting this), I’m finally reviewing the Estonian Cranberry and Apple Soup I promised you from The Food and Cooking of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania cookbook by Silvena Johan Lauta that I promised a few weeks back.

latvian cooking

First of all, the cookbook is gorgeous.  The photographs (by Martin Brigdale) are both beautiful and enticing (although when is professional food photography not enticing…?). The book gives you some historical and cultural background to the Baltic region in general, as well as some background specific to each country. My one complaint is that there aren’t actually a whole lot of Latvian recipes in the book, which is frustrating. Nicole’s dad’s family is Latvian, and exploring the culture through food has been one of the ways we’ve found to connect her to her cultural roots. (It is actually surprisingly hard to find Latvian cookbooks. There is supposedly a fantastic book called Latvian Cooking put out by the Latvian Ladies Auxiliary group of Ontario, but I haven’t been able to get my hands on it.)

Anyway, because we had about ten pounds of local cranberries in our freezer (we bought a massive bag at Thanksgiving) we decided to try the Cranberry and Apple Soup. I’d never made or eaten fruit soup before, and was game to try. Here’s how it went:

cranberries 1Recipe (serves 6)

5 1/4 cups cranberries

scant cup of water

115 g of caster (superfine sugar) * we used honey

350 g of cooking apples, peeled and finely grated

1 tbsp of cornflower *we omitted this

1/2 cup sour creamcranberries 2

*Because I didn’t really feel like making an insane amount of cranberry soup that I wasn’t sure if we’d like or not, I halved the recipe.

  1. Put the cranberries in a large pan, cover with water and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 10 minutes, or until the cranberries are soft.  Allow to cool a little.
  2. Transfer the cranberries and liquid to a food processor or blender and pulse to a puree.  Pass through a sieve, pressing down with the back of a spoon to get as much fruit as possible.

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3.   Discard the fruit pulp and keep the strained fruit and juices,  Add the sugar, put back in the pan and gently bring back to simmer. *we opted for honey rather than sugar because we didn’t have caster sugar, and we figured it would be equally authentic.

DSCF3475

4.   Add the grated apples to the cranberry mixture.  Mix the cornflour with 30 t tbsp of water to make a smooth paste, then stir into the soup *We skipped this bit because, honestly, the soup was already so thick, we couldn’t imagine eating something even thicker. Simmer, stirring for 5 minutes. Allow to cool, then transfer to a bowl and chill. Ladle the cold soup into bowls and serve with a dollop of sour cream, swirled with a skewer to decorate.

DSCF3477So, what did we think of it? Well, Nicole gave it somewhere in the realm of an 8/10 (meaning she’d love to eat this soup again and again and again). I was less impressed…only because I was so confused! I mean, is this dessert?  Is this a palate cleanser like sorbet?  What is this? That’s what my mouth kept saying to me. So, I gave it a 4/10, not because of the taste so much as the absolute confusion (in fact, I froze the rest of mine because I thought maybe I would like it better like ice cream…no such luck!). Granted, we probably shouldn’t have eaten it as a main course…the cookbook gave no pairing suggestions with the soup, but I can imagine it would have been good in very small servings as a starter course, or as I’ve already said, as a “dessert soup”.  I would make it again if we were going to have a fancy Christmas dinner sometime.

What do you do with your fruit soups? First course?  Dessert course? Other courses? Suggested pairings?

Since we made this soup, we’ve had some other adventures in soup making that haven’t been recorded, such as a made-up Moroccan Lentil soup that was sooooo good I could have eaten it everyday (in fact, I ate it 3 days in a row), and today we made a lovely pumpkin and basmati rice soup from the New Soup Cookbook I wrote about in my last blog. It had the perfect blend of flavours–cardamon, cinnamon, and cayenne. Mmmm mmm, good.

Anyway, with the start of December also comes the beginning of holiday cooking and baking. Stay tuned throughout December–this Friday, for example, Nicole and I are making a delicious recipe of Norwegian beer-braised pork belly from the magazine bon appetite December 2014 edition, along with lefse (oh, how my little Scandinavian heart beats in love!) for her birthday supper. And then we’re going to Sugar Moon’s Dec. 6th Chef’s night (which I hope we’ll review here in the coming week). So, lots of exciting things to come!

Until then, happy eating!

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Goldilocks’ Soup

Remember the story of Goldilocks? She tried one bowl of porridge and it was too hot.  She tried another and it was too cold.  She tried a third bowl, and it was juuuuust right? Well, tonight we had our own adventures with what you might call “Goldilocks’ Soup”.

It all started when Nicole decided to make broth from our leftover roast chicken we’d had earlier this week. She added all the usual suspects–chicken bones, garlic, sage, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, onion and carrot, to which she added leftover broccoli and an apple (don’t ask me why–she says it was a “bit of a fridge clear-out broth”). To this mix, she decided to add half a chopped green chilli pepper.

When we took the broth off the stove an hour later, we decided to taste the broth before we froze it to make sure it didn’t need any more seasoning (she didn’t add any salt). At first, the soup tasted like a bland chicken broth but then POW! there was suddenly really hot spice burning my tongue and throat. It was…interesting, to say the least. We hemmed and hawed about what to do with this (because we didn’t really want to have overpowerlingly spicy broth), until Nicole remembered a tip an old room mate of her’s used to use: vinegar.

Whenever a chili was too spicy for her room mate, she would add red wine vinegar to the mix, and that calmed the whole scene down. So, Nicole figured she’d try the vinegar trick to see if it worked (we really didn’t have much to lose at this point).

She added roughly two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to the 4 cups of broth we had, and let that cook for awhile. Miraculously, it did seem to cut the spice of the broth! However, it also made the broth taste kind of like vinegar. In the end, she added some balsamic vinegar and some soy sauce to a small amount we poured out for our soup tonight, and so we had a version of vegetable “sweet and sour” chicken soup. I wouldn’t recommend trying this from the start, but if you are trying to save your broth, it’s worth a try.

I’ve also read that really any kind of acidic food will cut heat, whether that be lemon juice, lime juice, or even sugar (although you don’t want to use too much of any of these to make sure you don’t end up spoiling the intended flavour of the food).

What do you do to cut back spice in your food?

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Soup’s on Sundays!

Well friends, it’s come to that time of the year again–that’s right, winter. And with winter comes the season for soup! Now, Nicole would argue that soup is an all-season dish, and I suppose she’s right. I like a good, chilled avocado soup as much as she does. But on days like today where it’s bucketing rain and the temperature’s hovering just around 1 degrees C that I come home shivering, hoping for a hot bowl of something to wrap my hands around.

So, to welcome winter in all it’s glory, I’ve decided that November is going to be Soup month on the blog. Or, at least Soup on Sundays. Each week, I’ll be featuring a different soup to keep you warm on these dark days and nights.

This week’s soup comes to you from the New Soup Bible cookbook, edited by Anne Sheasby. When I bought the book way back in 2011, I thought it was actually another cookbook that I adore, The Soup Bible by Debra Mayhew (I came across Mayhew’s cookbook while working at the Camrose Railway Museum and Tearoom a number of summers ago. I remember it having some incredible recipes, including a carrot ginger recipe I managed to copy out on one of my breaks and staple to the front cover of one of my own cookbooks. That Carrot Ginger soup has been my comfort soup for almost a decade now and has never disappointed). I was sad to realize when I got home that the New Soup Bible was not a revised edition of the cookbook I remembered from my years in the Train Station kitchen, but I’ve been nonetheless impressed with this book ever since.

Picture 29

The New Soup Bible has 200 recipes inside it from all over the world, although there are a high number of Spanish, Portuguese, and Irish soups (as well as Thai–I’m not really sure why those four countries feature so predominantly in this cookbook. It seems somewhat random…) and it’s split into 9 main sections on different kinds of soup (fish, poultry, smooth vegetable, chunky veg, etc.) as well as an extensive introduction on techniques, recipes for soup bases and broths, etc. All in all, I would recommend this cookbook for someone who’s looking to add more pizzazz to their soup repertoire (the recipes also go from fairly simple to (what I think as) fairly complex in ingredients and technique).

So, this week, I made Parsnip and Apple soup–what Ms. Sheasby tells me is a popular Irish soup. I’d made this recipe only once years ago and hadn’t been a big fan of it, but I had the ingredients in my house today and didn’t have enough ginger to make my regular go-to carrot ginger soup, so I figured I’d give this one another whirl. As it was, I was glad I made it!

Picture 28Here’s the recipe (with some additions I made myself due to not having all the ingredients):

  • 2 lbs. parsnips (I had about 1 lbs. of parsnip, so I added some apple to the recipe and decreased the amount of stock)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 5 cups hot chicken stock
  • 2/3 cups light cream (I didn’t have this much cream, so I added 3 small potatoes for creamy texture)
  • salt and pepper, chopped fresh parsley or chives, and/or croutons to garnish
  • (I added 1 cooking apple, chopped, for extra flavour)

1. After chopping onions, crushing garlic, peeling and thinly slicing the parsnips (and potatoes), heat the butter in the pan and add all chopped veg to pot. Cook until onions are softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally. Add the ground cumin and coriander to veg mixture and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring, and then gradually blend in the hot chicken stock (and apple) and mix well.

2. Cover and simmer for ca. 20 minutes, or until the parsnips (and potatoes) are soft.  Puree the soup, adjust the texture with extra stock or water if it seems to thick, and check the seasoning.  Add the cream and reheat without boiling.

3. Serve immediately, sprinkled with chopped chives or parsley to garnish.

All in all, this soup took about 40 minutes to make, which was great because I was famished after working at church this morning, and needed something quick and hot. I was also happy to say that the parsnips, the apple, the potatoes, and the chives were all locally gown/produced (or in the case of the stock, homemade), which gave me some extra pride as I chopped up all the veg.

I asked Nicole over lunch how she would rate this soup, 1 being “I will never eat this again,” and 10 being “I want to eat this everyday”, and she gave it a 5.5. I would maybe give it a 5–it didn’t have much kick to it at all which just made me feel like it was a non-committal soup. But, in terms of it being fast, hot and local, it hit the spot. I would probably make it again, but not unless I didn’t have ingredients for another favourite soup on hand. Things I might change: I would add one more apple to the soup, and some fresh grated ginger, to give things a bit more kick.

Next week, we’re making Estonian Cranberry soup from The Food and Cooking of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. See you Sunday!

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An Edible Flower Garden

Tulips, roses, marigold, nasturtiums…I’ve been dreaming lately of the new garden plot Nicole has been creating in our backyard (she’s been creating a lazagna garden, rather than try to dig up all that crazy grass and goldenrod). It’s just a small plot so far, and we’ve already planted our garlic bulbs for the year, as well as transplanted our potted perennial herbs which makes for even less space to grow all the tomatoes and squash and kale we’d like to grow next year. So that means we’re going to need another space for the edible flower garden I’ve been dreaming of! Whether it will be more potted gardening, or we somehow find the time and means to dig out a garden plot, or perhaps just a few square bails hollowed out with dirt that will act as organic plant “pots” and slowly decompose into earth for a garden I don’t yet know, but I’m looking forward to the adventure!

Hopefully this list of edible flowers will spark your own imagination with dreams of flavour and colour through the upcoming winter months–I know I’m looking forward to the spicy flavour of nasturtiums, the potential for the beautiful colours of day lilies and marigolds along with old standards like chive and squash blossoms. Happy dreaming, and happy garndeing!

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An Afternoon Jaunt in Malagash

Our household has suddenly become twice as big in the past week–my parents are visiting us from Alberta until just after Thanksgiving–and as such, we’ve been eating (and drinking!) much more than we normally do as we enjoy each others’ company. Today we decided to take a drive down to Malagash to show them the gorgeous views down on the point, as well as to finally drop by Vista Bella Farm’s roadside stand (they’ve got apples, pears, plums, honey, pumpkins, and squash for sale right now all on the side of the road! Nicole and I were in love.) Anyway, the other in-season food tourism we did today was head to Jost Winery to spend the best afternoon ever in their store and on their front patio. Because I was the Designated Driver, I didn’t sample much more than the maple food platter we ordered, but my dad did! And so, this food review is brought to you today by Brian Nelson:

Our afternoon jaunt to Jost Winery started with a very pleasant drive along the beautiful North Shore Sunset Trail (Highway 6) between Tatamagouche and Wallace.  Just follow the signs to arrive at the beautifully landscaped Jost Wineries on the Malagash peninsula.  Jost Wineries is one of the oldest operating wineries in Nova Scotia and has a tastefully decorated store, sampling bar and restaurant with a very pleasant patio attached overlooking their vineyards.

I was pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of wines available for sampling (free of charge).  I surprised our server by asking him to recommend wines based on food selections we were planning on serving in the near future, which took him back a bit, but he rose to the challenge.

We were planning on a Scallop and Lobster Alfredo Sauce on Whole Wheat Pasta for supper.  He recommended Jost’s Award Winning (2013) Tidal Bay or their L’Acadie Chardonnay(2013).  Both would have been excellent choices but the Tidal Bay had a very clean and crisp flavour, slightly dry but yet it left my mouth with a very pleasant light fruity flavour and oddly enough for a dry wine, a juicy feeling, quite unlike many dry white blends that are somewhat astringent.  The Chardonnay was not as complex but would be an excellent choice for its price point. I bought bottles of both.  That evening we tried the Tidal Bay out with the seafood pasta and it complemented it very well.  It brought out the mild taste of both the scallops and the lobster without overwhelming it.  It ranks highly with any imported Australian, Hungarian, Chilean or Argentinian white wine that I have tried recently in its price category.  I think you could easily pay $5.00 or more a bottle for comparable Okanogan or Ontario based wines.  As it is purely Nova Scotian in its origin, I thought it should be highlighted in this review.  The Tidal Bay title is a competition amongst Nova Scotian Wineries and each competitor must follow the following criteria to be called Tidal Bay:

Tidal Bay at a Glance

  • All grapes used in the making of the wine must be Nova Scotia grown.
  • Primary grapes: L’Acadie Blanc, Seyval, Vidal and Geisenheim 318.
  • Maximum Yields: An annual, bottled average of 3 tonnes per acre will be the maximum permitted yield.
  • Pressing of the grapes may only be done with a bladder or basket press (vertical or horizontal).
  • No more than 20% new oak barrels may be used for fermentation or storage.
  • Alcohol content: Between 9.5% and 11%.

My next challenge was for a wine to match Roast chicken (locally grown) which we were planning for Thanksgiving.  After sampling several wines, I chose an Avondal Riesling Gold for a white wine.  It had a pleasant fruity aftertaste, perhaps apples, which I think would go well with a stuffed roasted chicken.  As some of our guests prefer red wine, the Cabernet Sauvignon Marechal Foch was my first choice.  It was very flavourful, dark and rich, with a bit of smoky aftertaste.  Hmm, maybe not the best match, we shall see.

Nova Scotia wineries have struggled to find grape varieties that will flourish in this climate, yet be able to compete with the more established grape growing areas. I think the research and perseverance are paying off. The Marechal Foch variety was one of the earlier successes in Nova Scotia Vineyards.  It is pretty strong in flavour, so my guess is Jost Wineries blended it with an imported Cabernet Sauvignon juice to mellow and smooth it out a bit.  If you like a bold, robust red either on its own or with a good steak, I think you would like this wine.

While there we selected a Maple Plank appetizer selection.  This was a generous selection of local sausage and sliced meat from the Pork Shop in Denmark (all gluten free for those so inclined), local (100 miles maybe) of cheeses, a selection of smoked nuts, crisp bread rounds and a variety of local jams, pickles and some condiments.  We went with glasses of the house Red, some of the Riesling and the Tidal bay onto the patio that overlooked the vineyards.  It was a wonderful view, and sitting in the late afternoon sun, we had more than enough food for a light lunch for 4 at $25.00.  A very pleasant way to spend a warm autumn afternoon.

Finally, I tried their house wines.  These are a steal of a deal.  The house white is light, fruity and slightly dry.  The house red is a pretty robust red, with lots of body, nose and some oak under taste.  At $9.99 you will be hard pressed to find a better deal from any of the wine growing regions of Canada, they will beat any of the European wines of a much higher price range.  I have no idea if they are made from local grapes but in true Canadian tradition, I snagged a couple of bottles for when the dinner guests are done the expensive brands.  I certainly wouldn’t be embarrassed to serve them at that time.

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blackberry lime adventure

image credit Ell4iot Borer

image credit Ell4iot Borer

I know that blackberry season has been over for a week or two here in Nova Scotia, but as I’ve been very negligent in blogging about my food adventures as of late, I thought I should write this one up because of how very interesting it was. (Nicole and I got married in July out in Alberta, and so most of my time this summer went towards the wedding, and when we got back, most of our time has gone into making house! Which doesn’t mean that there haven’t been food adventures in our house…it just means we’ve been very bad at documenting them.)

So, blackberries! I came across this recipe for blackberry-lime jam in the summer, and automatically knew I had to make it. (Nicole is a jam fiend, and a lime fiend. I earned a ton of spouse browny points for this one!) Out of all the blackberry lime jam recipes I found online (who knew blackberry lime was so popular?) this one’s directions made the most sense, used the least ingredients, and had the same proportions of blackberries we’d just picked. It also meant that I had to learn how to supreme the limes, which I was curious about.

So, how did the recipe fair? Let’s see:

20140908_1314411. Supreming the limes was a bitch. The directions given in the link above were very straightforward, which I really appreciated, but just as the local kitchen blog mentioned in their notes after the recipe, supreming really is a pain in the butt, mostly because limes are such small fruit. But, I figured since Kaela said she wished she’d supremed her limes to cut some of the bitterness in the jam, I thought I would take the time. Even though by the end of six limes, I was kind of grumbly, I was glad I learned how to do this, and later on while eating the jam, I was glad I took the time.

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Lime Supreme(d)…

2) I should have paid attention to Kaela when she said lime was the predominant20140908_134609 flavour in this jam. 6 limes?! I might have cut out a lime or two…

3) I mixed up the jam, and strained half of the seeds out of it with our new jelly bag (no more unfortunate pictures of me straining juice through new nylons! yay!) just because I didn’t want the massive amount 20140908_135821of seeds. I used Certo pectin (this is what I had on hand), which may or may not have been the right thing to do rather than the same kind of pectin the recipe called for (more on that later).

4) Problem: When I poured the package of Certo into the jam mixture, the Certo package told me to add 7 cups of sugar to blackberry jam, while Kaela’s recipe only called for 1 cup, but said use up to 3 cups of sugar if you liked sweeter jam. I wasn’t really sure which recipe to follow at this point, but the mixture was much tarter than I like (which is saying something), so I added a second cup of sugar. At this point, Nicole said that was sweet enough for her, so I processed the jam.

I knew something wasn’t quite right when I was pouring the jam into the jars. 20140908_163911It was much too runny (it was thick, but not really thick). I had boiled the jam for as long as Kaela’s recipe called for, so by all accounts, I figured things should have been good. We water-bathed the jars and let them sit on the counter to cool down and seal afterwards, and even a few hours later, the “jam” was not quite solid. It looked gorgeous, but something seemed wrong. So, we went on a hunt to figure out what went wrong.

God Bless the Blog Food In Jars. While scanning the internet, I came across the blog post entitled Canning 101: How to Save Runny Jam which gave me this sage advice: “If you don’t want to invest any additional work in that jam, all you have to do is change expectations. If it’s just sort of runny, call it preserves. If it’s totally sloshy, label it syrup and move on with your life.”

She then went on to tell me that if I couldn’t let go of my runny jam (which I knew I couldn’t) to wait 24-48 hours to see if the pectin would kick in. She then went on to describe a list of ways I could save the jam, including the most useful jam advice I’ve had in a long time–the plate test.

In the end, I ended up having a funeral the week we made this jam and so there was suddenly no more free time for me to re-open the jam and make it again. I took that sage advice and labelled my sloppy jam “blackberry lime preserves” and decided to be happy with that. But if I had had the time to care more about my future breakfast foods, I would have probably also added another cup of sugar to the recipe (reason being: we opened one of the jars the other day, and the jam was still a bit tart for our tastes, but it might have also helped to thicken things up just that tad bit more that it needed), and boiled it a bit longer.

In the end, I’m pretty happy with the preserves we have–it’s super tasty in crepes, and even good on toast if you don’t mind licking your fingers!

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Good and Cheap (potentially the most amazing cookbook ever)

So, this evening, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, when I found this:

Photo main

the story of the most amazing cookbook ever.

According to her website, foodstudies scholar Leanne Brown created the cookbook Good and Cheap to be a useful, use-able and beautiful cookbook “for people with limited incomes, particularly those on a $4/day food stamps budget.”

In part of the introduction to Good and Cheap, Leanne writes:

These recipes are designed for the budget of people on SNAP (the US
program that used to be called Food Stamps). The meals are generally
healthy and use ingredients common to most low-income New York
City neighborhoods. More than in most cookbooks, the recipes are
flexible and encourage substitution based on availability, taste, and price.
I want you to tailor things to your taste. That is the joy of cooking!
My intent was to create satisfying food that doesn’t require you to
supplement your meals with cheap carbohydrates to stave off hunger.
I strove to create recipes that use money carefully, without being purely
slavish to the bottom line.

The recipes in this cookbook look simple and also amazing, (and it helps that the photography is also totally gorgeous, and is all done by Leanne Brown herself)

And the best part is, the cookbook is free! You can download a copy of the cookbook on her website listed above.

However, Leanne has also started a Kickstarter program to receive donations from good people like you and me so she can put a number of copies of this cookbook in print. With printed cookbooks, Leanne can put Good and Cheap in the hands of folks who don’t have access to computers or internet, or who may not otherwise be able to access the work that could benefit them. If you’re able, seriously consider donating to this cause, folks (even donations as low as $1 are gratefully received!)–consider just how important good food has been in your life, or in the lives of those you love. Wouldn’t you want others to receive those blessings, too?

Also, maybe there are ways you can use Good and Cheap in your local contexts to help give greater access to better, cheap food for more people? Have you ever thought about sharing food with your community in some way? …the possibilities are endless, all you have to do is listen to the needs of the people around you, and be open to what comes of it.

 

*all images in this post are Leanne Brown’s from her cookbook Good and Cheap, 2014.

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Whirligigs Cafe

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On the main drag of Wallce, NS, looking out on the bay you’ll find this amazing spot called Whirligigs Cafe. People had been telling me about Whirligigs’ brunch all last summer, but I never got a chance to go. So this past week, Nicole and I got up super early (to get my tires changed–by June 3rd, there should be no more snow!) and got in the car to drive to Wallace.

Normally, Wallace isn’t longer than a half hour drive from my place, but with all the road construction, it took us closer to 45 minutes from start to finish. And seeing as how we hadn’t had anything to eat when we left the house, I was famished.

But Whirligigs didn’t let me down! We got there right after they opened, which helped, and seeing as how it was a Monday morning, there wasn’t anyone else in the place besides us and the staff. We settled on the “Whirligigs” (2 poached eggs on homemade fishcakes, topped with hollandaise sauce and homemade biscuits) and raspberry pancakes with bacon, and some coffee and tea, and took a seat by the window overlooking the harbour.

While waiting for our food, we poked around the place a bit–Whirligigs is honestly one of 20140603_083307the prettiest places I’ve eaten on the North Shore. The cafe is so brightly lit during the day with all the windows, and there are all these whimsical paper lanterns hanging throughout the room. Each table has either a brightly coloured table cloth or had a brightly coloured tile top that added to the mix of colours. And to top it all off, there was the great mix of classic jazz, folk, and blues playing in the background that set the mood for a welcoming, relaxing, and laid back atmosphere.

Our food arrived super quickly (which I was grateful for). My pancakes were so hot and fluffy, and packed with raspberries, which is the way I like ’em! Dusted with icing sugar a20140603_083957nd covered in maple syrup, I thought I was in heaven the whole time. I think my favourite part of my breakfast though was the bacon. I kept hoping that it was Pork Shop bacon from Denmark, NS because I just would’ve been fiercely proud of the North Shore supporting each other, but alas, the bacon that sent me over the moon that morning comes from none other than Costco. The staff said people ask them all the time where their bacon comes from, so I didn’t feel so crazy raving to them about the wonders of their breakfast meats, but I did feel a little funny raving about bacon from Costco. Who knew?…

Nicole’s breakfast on the other hand was to die for. She’d ordered the Whirligigs, (the poached eggs on fishcakes) and oh my heavens, was it amazing! The eggs were perfect, the fish cakes (being from Alberta, it was hard to convince me that fishcakes for breakfast was20140603_083944 a good idea, but I have now been converted, I swear!) were amazing (just the right consistency and flavour) and the biscuits with the homemade preserves were fantastic. And the hollandaise sauce! Sigh. It was a good choice, on Nicole’s part. Thankfully, she let me try a bite.

All in all, I’d say I’d go back there again, perhaps once all the road construction is finished (which hopefully should be by the end of next week, if we’re lucky, at least on the Tatamagouche end of Highway 6!). I’d also encourage any of you who are looking for a place with ambience on the North Shore to check out Whirligigs for breakfast, lunch, or cofee! They say the weekends are their busiest, Sundays after church for brunch is hard to find a spot to sit. But if you’re lucky, you just might get a chance to talk to some interesting people, including the staff, and share a good meal with some new friends!

Whirligigs is open now (during the summer)  Monday-Friday from 8am-3pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 8am-2pm.

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Happy eating!

(thanks to Nicole Uzans for taking pictures of the food we so heartily and happily devoured Monday morning…)

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Sun Tea from Oliver Farms

This week’s food inspiration comes to you directly from the sun!

steeping sun tea

steeping sun tea

How could anyone not love Sun Tea? It’s honest to God the easiest way to make iced tea during the spring/summer months, and when you have the option of using local tea (like I do using Oliver Farm tea) it makes it even nicer.

So a quick word about Oliver Farms (according to the owners themselves):

Oliver Farm sits on 35 acres backing onto the French River which runs into the village of Tatamagouche. The farm was once a much larger mixed operation owned by Bessy Oliver, it then changed hands a few times and farming fell by the wayside until October 2009 when during a trip to the North shore of Nova Scotia, we jumped at the opportunity to buy it. Crikey, are we nuts?

In my mind, it is pretty crazy to move from the UK to buy and operate an organic flower farm on the North Shore of Nova Scotia, and yet, Fay and Jamie have managed to do it for 3 years now! If that’s not a success story, I don’t know what is. Oliver Farms sells their organic flowers wholesale to florists and regular folk, they’ve got a deal going with the Waldegrave Farms CSA for this year to have their flowers included in customer’s orders for a nominal fee, they sell their products on Etsy as well as at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market and the Tatamagouche Farmers’ Market!

The only tea I’ve bought from Oliver Farm so far is their High Chai. Personally, I am very picky about my chai–I like it to be layered in flavour, and sometimes I like a good kick of hot spice to it as well. The only chai I’ve found that satisfies my longings 100% of the time is Tazo Chai Tea. (I know that’s sad, but it’s true. However, I’ve checked the box to see whether they’ve hooked me with “natural flavouring” and they haven’t–everything that’s listed on the ingredients list is actually organic, easily-pronounceable ingredients. So maybe they just have a good blend?)

That being said, Oliver Farm’s High Chai is a good second. I only bought a tiny tin of it at the farmers’ market because I wasn’t sure I’d like it enough to want to use it again, and it was satisfying. I found I really had to mix it up in order to get the ground spices that had sunk to the bottom of the tin into my tea strainer, and that was a little annoying (but really, tea bags spoil us, so it’s not that bad to work for my tea!). The High Chai didn’t have that kick that I enjoy so much from the Tazo Chai, but it wasn’t disgusting like Twinning’s Chai is (to my taste), nor did it take absolutely forever to steep enough to have flavour like David’s Tea chai.

So today, I’m making Oliver Farm High Chai Sun Tea. Like I said, it’s really simple. All you need to have is a clean, clear jug or jar (I’m using an old honey jar because my regular sun tea jug is currently full of regular iced tea.), access to sweetener of some sort (I use sugar because I find it blends in better with the sun tea, although I have tried honey), water, and tea of your choice. Add your sweetener to the jar first, pop in your tea bag (or tea strainer full of tea–even if I’m making a jug of sun tea, I only use one serving of tea), pour cold water over it, cover your jar so the bugs won’t get in it and set this project outside in direct sunlight somewhere for a few hours.

Oliver Farm High Chai sun tea steeping on my porch

Oliver Farm High Chai sun tea steeping on my porch

Now I know you want to drink your iced tea now, but honestly, it’s worth the wait. It’s amazing what the power of the sun can do to make tea! If you’ve got some time, check in with your tea just to see how it’s steeping through the day–I always love to watch the swirls of colour leak into the water.

Once it’s done, take the tea bag out, cover the jar with a lid and shake the jar to blend the sweetener into the drink. You’ll probably have to do this every time you drink it, but if you blend it now, it’ll be easier later. Pop it in the fridge for a few hours to let it cool down, and there you have it! Sun Tea!

High Chai sun tea two hours later...it should be quite dark by now, but for some reason it's not. I added more tea to the strainer, just in case.

High Chai sun tea two hours later…it should be quite dark by now, but for some reason it’s not. I added more tea to the strainer, just in case.

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The Economic Impact of Nova Scotia Farmers’ Markets

Nova Scotia Farmer’s Markets have an amazingly positive impact on our local communities! Check out the report released last Thursday by the Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia to find out more!

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